ATHENS — Georgia coach Scott Stricklin and his baseball team have been hit as hard by COVID as any other program, but the message last week was clear.
“At Vanderbilt, it was time to put our foot down and show what we’re about,” said Stricklin, who’s in his eighth year leading the Bulldogs’ baseball program.
The No. 23-ranked Bulldogs beat the previously No. 1-ranked Commodores 14-2 last Thursday, fell 5-2 last Friday and triumphed 9-1 on Saturday for their first series win over a top-ranked team since 1993 (Mississippi State).
“We challenged our kids, it’s time to step up, we’re going to No. 1 Vanderbilt,” Stricklin said he told his team. before they boarded the bus for Nashville.
“If you’re scared, if you are timid, don’t get on the bus. We are going to go there and we’re going to fight, and we’re going to battle and we’re going to do everything we can to win this series.”
UGA program did just that in rocking the nation’s number one pitching staff on the series’ opening night, snapping Vanderbilt’s 9-game win streak.
The Bulldogs blasted seven home runs in Thursday night’s win, including three off Kumar Rocker, who along with Vandy No. 2 starter Jack Leiter is expected to be among the top three picks in the upcoming Major League Baseball.
“I joked with some friends of mine afterward, that’s just bad coaching — I don’t know why we didn’t think about that earlier, to just hit seven home runs in a game and things would be a whole lot easier!” Stricklin said with a chuckle.
“To be able to score those runs against that kind of pitching staff, with Rocker and Leiter one and two, that’s the best in the country, and you could argue that’s the best (1-2 punt) we’ve seen in college baseball, they are the early favorites to go one and two in the draft.”
Georgia’s success at Vanderbilt came on the heels of dropping two of three at home to No. 10-ranked South Carolina in Stricklin’s first series back after dealing with COVID.
The Georgia skipper missed eight games on account of the global pandemic earlier this season, including two SEC series versus Tennessee and at Texas A&M.
“High fever, headaches, body aches, couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t eat anything, felt really lousy for about 12 days,’ Stricklin said. “But the worst part was having to watch our games on TV. You don’t have a lot of perspectives, you don’t see angles, you don’t see things that are happening in other places of the field, you can’t have any communication with your coaches or players.
“I feel 100 percent now; the last four or five days I feel 100 percent.”
Georgia baseball looks to build off the momentum of the series at 5 p.m. on Tuesday against Georgia State at Foley Field. The game will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.